NumberOver 2

Living in
the border area

Freiwillige helfen bei der Ausbesserung der Schwanenallee an der Matrosenstation Kongsnæs (undatiert) Volunteers help repair Schwanenallee at Kongsnæs Sailors’ Station (undatiert) - Photo: Stadtarchiv Potsdam

Most of the buildings on Schwanenallee as well as on Bertinistrasse, which began just behind the New Garden, became state property as of 1949. They were used by Potsdam City Council, by border troops, as well as by the Ministry for State Security. The villas on Schwanenallee were located in the border area from 1961 on. Partitioned into rental units, they were mostly allocated to state employees such as teachers, policemen and veteran functionaries. All occupants were vetted by East German security for their political reliability.

The residents on Schwanenallee had to pass the checkpoint near Glienicke Bridge in order to reach their homes - Photo: PrivatbesitzThe residents on Schwanenallee had to pass the checkpoint near Glienicke Bridge in order to reach their homes - Photo: Privatbesitz

Those permitted to stay received a border ID that entitled them to enter the restricted zone. Visitors, manual laborers or couriers had to apply for a special permit, which entailed rigorous political screening and was not necessarily granted. The border area began on Berliner Strasse, about 300 meters before Glienicke Bridge, where the tram tracks still end nowadays. The frontier barriers on Schwanenallee started just beyond the front lawns and consisted at first of barbed wire and fences. They were reinforced and expanded over the years with the addition of electrified signal fences and dog runs. Finally, in the 1980s, a wall was built here too. At night the border was floodlit in order to prevent escapes.

Der Todestreifen (hier ca. 1985 am Quapphorn ) wurde nachts ausgeleuchtet

Swan Bridge, at the start of the New Garden in Potsdam, was located in the death strip too - Photo: Potsdam Museum - Forum für Kunst und Geschichte, Sammlung Fotografie

Das Leben im Grenzgebiet brachte neben der ständigen Kontrolle auch andere Belastungen mit sich: dauerhafte Beleuchtung, Hundegebell, Einschränkungen von Besuchen oder die notorische Mangelversorgung in den dortigen Lebensmittelläden.


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The border area at Jungfernsee lake

Schwanenallee was likewise incorporated into the border area of the GDR adjacent to West Berlin after the construction of the Wall. The East German border troops were responsible for the expansion and perfection of the border facilities.

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Testimonies: Living next to the border

The story of one local resident on Schwanenallee may serve here as an example of daily life at the border area.

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